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11 January 2011

Time For Climate Change

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The Geological Society of London put out a position statement on climate change, and among its many interesting tidbits said that the Earth's climate could take 100,000 years or longer to recover from this most recent bout of CO2, absent any human mitigation

The Society based this projection on numerical models of the climate system that went into the 2007 IPCC report. The Society's advice, based on this conclusion, is a bit of an understatement: "...Emitting further large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere over time is likely to be unwise, uncomfortable though that fact may be."

In a stellar summary of past climates, the Society builds a very convincing argument that the climate troubles we face today do not appear in isolation in Earth's history. Although the cause of CO2 levels today - namely human-induced emissions - is a uniquely modern day phenomenon, the Earth has experience tumultuous climate swings in the past.

Based on comparisons of CO2 concentrations with past eras, we may be headed for the "55 million year event," in which global temperatures shot up by 9-10.8 degrees F quite suddenly.

The so-called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum involved the release of 1,500-2,000 billion tons or more of carbon into the ocean and atmosphere, possibly from a breakdown in methane hydrates under the deep sea floor because of volcanic activity, says the Society statement.


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